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Making Curved Coach Roofs




blog-0174225001436220805.jpgI meant to mention, in my previous entry, how I made the curved plasticard roofs for my early GWR coaches. I have read about wrapping plasticard sheet around an empty wine bottle, filled with boiling water, in order to 'set' the curve. Somehow, I'm always uneasy about pouring boiling water into glass bottles, so looked for an alternative - beer cans came to mind but these seemed of rather too small a diameter for my coach roofs. After searching around the kitchen (strange, alien place), I found a stainless-steel coffee jug that seemed just about the right size. As shown below, I taped the rectangle of 20 thou (0.5 mm) plasticard, for the roof, to the side of the jug, using broad strips of masking tape:




I was pleased to find, after the water in the jug had cooled, that the plasticard had acquired just the right curvature and sat neatly on top of my coach sides. Only time will tell if the new shape is permanent.




In building these coaches, I have realised that there was a revolution in the construction of railway carriages during the late 1860s, as their stage-coach origins were finally left behind. The new coaches of the 1870s were on an altogether more massive scale, with much more robust framing and iron solebars. I have taken a couple of photos to illustrate these changes:




The train on the left is composed of the Dean type coaches (mainly Ratio kits), typical of the late 19th century, whereas on the right is a mix of earlier designs. I like the undulating roof line created by the juxtaposition of low, almost flat roofed stock, with the more impressive clerestory roof stock, much used by the GWR.




I regret that the coaches are not yet finished (pace Mikkel). When I have finished enjoying contemplating the various styles that they represent, I shall get down to all those fiddly details :)



  • Like 5
  • Craftsmanship/clever 1


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  • RMweb Gold

Clever idea Mike, I wrap my roofs around a tube and then emerge in hot water, but this is a neater solution. If the jug fits the required curvature of course. 


A nice illustration of the innovation in coach design. Which reminds me, I came across this photo the other day from the Pembroke & Tenby railway - doesn't have any of your early coaches but look at the mix in coach design and liveries, I love stuff like this  :-)



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Thank you for link, Mikkel.  Splendid stuff - mixed roofs, mixed liveries, mixed everything!  I also liked  the photo of Archibald and John Stephens engineering works with all those portable engines lined up outside.  I wonder what the neighbours thought!

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  • RMweb Gold

Nice work Mike. It should hold its shape. However avoid leaving the coaches in strong sunlight it could re-soften the plastic.


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Thanks, Don.  Fortunately, my railway room is on the North side of the house, so direct sunlight is not a problem.



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I use an aluminium coach roof  from a PC coach kit as a former for plastic roofs, otherwise the same method

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Thank you Paul - that's a great idea and would also be useful for tri-arc roofs.  I could shape my own templates for all sorts of purposes!

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There is also the shamefully neglected tin plate as well.which is easy to shape and holds it well.Didn't pre-grouping coach roofs have stretched canvas on them as well?

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I do like to try and use materials that are 'sympathetic' to the original.  Metal seems wrong for wood and canvas.  Plastic is, at least, a soft material, more in tune with the materials of the time, I feel.  Since a lot of early GWR coaches had papier mach

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Recently I have found that card is also a good medium for roofs, especially 6 wheelers

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  • RMweb Gold


You have done better than me shaping roofs.  The last time I tried it the masking tape fell off when it got hot!  You also have nice straight edges as well.  I have a coffeemaker but the jug is glass so I may give it a go as it has a larger radius than my whiskey bottle.

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When I was searching for something to use as a former, I realised the radius is quite large!  Perhaps, Chris, you should buy your whisky in litre bottles :)


The tape usually stuck well to the stainless steel jug, although it did fail once, when there was some moisture on the jug.


For some reason, Paul, card seems to be 'looked down on' but it is an excellent modelling material

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  • RMweb Premium

I have done it putting an oversize piece of .060 plastic sheet on a curved stoneware mug and placing under a grill. You have to take it out before it starts to go like Welsh rarebit, and the ends and sides curl up, which is why it's oversize. then trim and smooth. Probably on reflection your way is more controlled.

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I'd wondered about your method, Northroader, but decided it seemed a bit risky! - especially with our rather fierce gas 'solar' grill.  So far, my roofs seem to be 'holding' their curvature.

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